Ski Northern BC this Winter
For a dusting of powder and charm.
Most people who live in Northern BC will say that one of their favourite things about living up here is the proximity to “the outdoors.” I am no exception. I can literally hop in my vehicle, drive for 15 minutes and be in the woods, and of course, with this closeness to nature comes the fact that we don’t have to go very far to see some pretty spectacular wildlife. Here’s a glimpse of some of the winter wildlife in Prince George.
When I first started thinking about this post, I asked a few friends where they would suggest people look for wildlife around our Prince George, and I got the same answer several times: “Drive in any direction. The end.” Not very helpful for visitors, but accurate all the same! In fact, sometimes we don’t even have to leave our house to spot moose (see above photo!), and I recently came across deer tracks in the snow in a park I walk through every day in the middle of town. Foxes are often a common sighting in city limits as well (see proof below).
There are many areas away from the city’s core where you might be lucky enough to see a northern creature. The most sought after animal sighting of visitors to our city is definitely the moose. At this time of year, I once saw at least seven of them (separately) on Highway 16, east of Prince George, towards McBride. Needless to say, drive carefully along this route! I have gone snowshoeing down several forest service roads off of this stretch of highway and walked beside many holes several feet deep that could have only been moose tracks. In PG, students at the University of Northern BC quite often see moose on campus, and the forested area surrounding the university, including the Forests for the World and Cranbrook Hill Greenway trails are common areas for moose, foxes and other wildlife.
In addition to Forests for the World, there are several locations outside of the city that are excellent destinations for snowshoeing with a good chance of spotting northern wildlife. Eskers Provincial Park, located off Ness Lake Road, northwest of Prince George, is one of the top choices. There are several small lakes in the park and the area offers views of wildlife you would expect in a wetland habitat, including waterfowl, moose, and deer. Tabor Mountain area is another great option – white rabbits are around every turn on these trails, but that means they’re not alone! I once came across a set of large cougar tracks here during a solo snowshoeing trip – nothing makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck like that!
One of my favourite drives is down the Blackwater Road, west of Prince George, past beautiful West Lake Provincial Park. This long dirt road eventually connects to Quesnel. The last time I took a leisurely afternoon drive there was during the spring, and I passed a deer, a moose and a bear, each being followed by new offspring, and all within 10 km (6.2 mi) of each other. The Blackwater has many off roads and is quite a lot of fun to explore; you can find several lakes and campsites in this area in the summer as well, such as Punchaw Lake Recreation Site (note that you may need a four wheel drive in some areas, especially in winter).
And finally, one of my all-time favourite wildlife sightings are the beautiful trumpeter swans. My father and I used to make our way to the Crooked River each year to catch the first sight of them – once you’ve seen a trumpeter swam, you know spring is upon you! Crooked River Provincial Park is north of Prince George, and offers views of many different waterfowl, birds, beavers, moose and more all throughout the year.
While there are definite places to spot wildlife, the biggest tip I can share is to keep your eyes open! In the north, you could turn a corner anywhere and be face to face with one of our beautiful creatures.
Note: It would be irresponsible to share this information without saying that as amazing as it is to see a moose or bear, or other large wildlife, you actually do not want to encounter one when you’re on a trail (or any time you’re on foot really) – they can be powerful and unpredictable animals. Please do not approach any wildlife if you see one; always be aware of your surroundings and pack bear spray when in the backcountry.
Skiing & Snowboarding
10 days / 1300 km (808 mi)
Visit eight ski resorts on this road trip through the Kootenay Rockies.
10 days / 3000 km (1864 mi)
A new rider's journey on iconic BC highways.